Wednesday, March 09, 2005

2005 Iditarod : the View from Below 61.2° N

Last year my wife, Debra and I - along with our good friends, Ed and Judy Hauser, were in Anchorage, Alaska for an annual church conference meeting. When we found out that the municple of Anchorage, AK was an available choose for attendance .. we jumped at the opportunity. This was the first time in Alaska for all of us and we will all attest - Anchorage was going to be interesting - but it what was Outside that we really wanted to see!!

Ed and I have dreamed of Alaska since we were kids - and we've shared hundreds of hours of conversation on the various topics Alaska inspires in the minds of those who love the outdoors, over the past 21 years we've known each other. Our wives, too, have had a deep interest in seeing Alaska as well; for reasons different than ours. But, I also think it was partially to see what has kept us so enthralled with this, the largest state in the collection of unique landmasses called The United States of America.

Well, needless to say, we were ALL duly impressed, awed and splendidly pleased with out first visit to the Land of the Nothern Lights. How could you not in a state with, "North to the Future" as it's motto.

One of our excursions - was a planned church outing - to visit the kennels of an actual Iditarod legend: 4-time winner, Martin Buser, owner of Happy Trails Kennels, in Big Lake, AK. We again - jumped on this opportunity - eagerly! And we were not disappointed.

Matin Buser- known as Marty - is an extremely outgoing, friendly and welcoming person. He operates a handshake and a smile the same way he does his business .. with warmth, compassion and professionalism. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour of the kennels, meeting the rest of the Buser family .. which includes the amble through the dozens of dog houses - where, as Marty puts it, ".. the true athletes live." And athletes they are: in endurance, skill, determination and welcoming! Marty raises his dogs to be 'people oriented' and they show it. They LOVE you to walk up, pet, scratch and talk to them. They then warmly reciprocate. I've never enjoyed dirty paw prints so much in my life.

When we left, carrying our brochures, souvenir dog-booties and several score of digital photographs, we also left with a new-found friend. You just can't help getting the feeling that both Marty and the Iditarod were NOW close to you. They both seeped into our souls... nestling in like a sled dog into a much earned snow-bed ... and warming up against all the 'cold' we find in daily life. Amazing that a race that takes place in such ominous surroundings; dangerous conditions; and spirit grinding length and breadth .. can actually infuse a person with such a 'fire'.

But - I reckon I'm not totally amazed at this .. I've been an Iditarod-junkie since the first time I read about it long ago as child on the farm in west-central Indiana: a long way from AK and Dog racing's Greatest Race.

Yes, it may be a long way from here to there, but that does not stop the 'fire' and the 'love' I have for both the event, the athletes, the mushers ... and that mystical land they all converge on the first week in March.

Tid-bits on the 2005 Iditarod

IDITAROD 2005 Weather Conditions ON THE TRAIL ... provided by Weather Underground

You'll see the current weather THERE as you pass your cursor OVER the Check Point and ... and in most cases, you'll be glad you're where YOU ARE!! ;-)

* Southern Route -this years route - (odd years) map for current weather conditions along the trail
* Northern Route ...(even years) map of current weather conditions along the trail

These are the two sites where I'm getting all this information:

* Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and
* The Cabela's site ... again has a GREAT coverage on the race - this year !!

Just thought you might like to know how our 'buddy' Marty Buser is doing.

1. Marty is IN the race .. despite partially amputating his middle finger ( right hand) in a table saw accident on March 1!! Yikes Martin .. what were your thinkin' '!!!!???!!!!! Here's a neat Interview with Marty .. some pix, too from HAPPY TRAILS KENNELS. Here's more in-depth coverage from the Cabela's site on Marty's amputation .

NOTE: Updates on Marty and his dogs found here - Happy Trails Kennels!

2. Marty is currently holding 8th position .. (may change by the time you all read this, too!) He WAS in 5th place when he entered the McGrath checkpoint, yesterday. UPDATE 03.08.05: Just as I sent this email Marty was still resting in McGrath and has now dropped to 9th position - just ahead of Cabela's sponsored Mike King .. who is a good friend and serious competitor with Marty. I now have met them both - want to get to know them both better. I hope he [Marty] has it in him to continue to the finish line .. we know his dogs do !! That's for sure !! :-)

3. Here are Marty's 'stats' on his previous races ... pretty interesting.

4. Marty's BIO from ITSDR site ... more background on Marty for this race ... note the NAMES of dogs at the bottom of this info.. you WILL recognize a couple - if not more - name ... Cool! 8-)

5. And if you want to find out MORE on ANY MUSHER .. go here. Select from drop-down list and clik .. really interesting!

6. Hey WANNA Race Next year?? !! Here are all the forms necessary ..!! :-) 8-)

7. Here's the NOME Web Cam ... I'm assuming that from here you can WATCH the Winning Musher cross the line !!! Wicked Cool! 8-) And - they say MORE are 'coming' .. here's the list of 'other' Race Cams.

8. The IditaRider Program begun by Mike King, Cabela's sponsored musher and used by Make-A-Wish and others ... very neat write up from the Cabela's site

9. Here a truly interesting and heart-warming story... Rachael Scdoris ( Yes, the spelling is correct !!) .. legally blind, fought with Iditarod race officials for several years to allow her to race. They finally gave in - here's her story. Here's more! This young lady is not only a great musher .. she's the first real "Iditarod Babe'!! :-D 8-) :-* And here are Rachael's CURRENT STATS ... she's in 70th position .. and EVERY BIT a WINNER !!!

10. Not to mention the Mushing Female Amazon Jessica Hendricks!! This shows here latest STATS from the Cabela's site. [From the first piece, notice WHOM she beat in the Tustumena 200 Mile Race !! Jeff King .. Cabela's 'sponsor god' !!! This young lady is a musher to reckon with .. she's currently in 12th position ... and she's a ROOKIE !!!

Well .. that's only a 'sampling' of the info from both sites. INCREDIBLE!!! Technology is pretty cool .. eh? Check out the web sites at the top ... there are some amazing stories .. just from THIS YEAR .. and that is not including the Archived Years !!!

I'm printing off each day's highlights - again this year - and sending them to my brother, who is in his final 14 months of a 20 year incarceration in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Florida facilities. He is and has been an avid fan of the Iditarod as long as I have been: so, He LOVES it! And so - it seems - do a couple of his 'roomies' .. they are FROM AK!! Well, you know they have GOT to be hurting - being 'cooped' in FL !!!
ARRGHH .. I think I just found another definition for HELL !! [:o

'til next time ,


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